What do you think about all the crime shows on TV?  Every day, I see an ad for a new reality crime show on I.D.  Plus, on other channels, we have First 48, Body of Evidence, Cold Cases, The Investigators, and others.  I took stock of them yesterday when I noticed some upcoming new ones.  We have something called Nightmare Next Door, a new one that's something about mansions (wealthy people being murdered or committing them, I think), we have FBI Pursuit, True Crime, I Almost Got Away With It, The Devil You Know (being married to killers, or some type of criminal, I believe),, Dateline, and so many more.  There are also the fictional depictions on all the Law and Orders and Criminal Minds shows.

 

Without there being an intense fascination with crime, murder in particular, since most of the shows do deal with that particular offense, the networks wouldn't keep putting them out there.  I would like to say that because my writing focuses mainly on crime fiction, I watch them all for research purposes, but that's not really true.  I don't necessarily get specific ideas from any of these shows, although I'm certain some things find their way into my subconscious, but that's not my reason for watching them.  And I will admit to you that I do watch them.  All.  Every chance I get.  I'm not sure what that says about me, but I'm obviously not alone in my 'addiction' to these.

 

What is it about them that draws so many viewers?  Even though they all concern crime, they focus on different types of offenders from different backgrounds, fugitives, what it's like living with a killer, and so on.  It's like there's a killer around every corner.  Is that what they're trying to tell us?  What is the attraction to such horrific information?  What do you think?  Too much or just about right?  And most importantly, is this information we really need to have?

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I hate all reality shows.  I don't like real crime stuff either, though I read the newspaper.  One wants to know where the dangerous parts of the city are.  And from a professional standpoint, it's necessary to stay in touch with the real world.

 

As to the fascination with violence: it's human.  The ancient Romans exploited it. So did law enforcement and the church during earlier ages in Europe. It explains the well attended guillotinings of the French revolution and the burning of witches, and the public executions.

 

Do we need to know?  I'm not sure about that.  Maybe people steel themselves for the moment when it happens to them.

I'm with you IJ on most of those reality shows.  I happened to tune in once (I won't mention the name of the show--it's one of the dumbest), where the primary players in this reality show were going over their scripts and doing re-takes on their spur-of-the-moment events.  I never believed the camera just followed them around and caught their actual lives, but seeing them rehearsing just made me ill and it just confirmed to me how ridiculous those shows were.

 

When it comes to crime though, I have to admit, I am hooked.  I don't know whether I'd be among the crowd watching a witch burn or attend a public execution, but I agree with you.  For some bizarre reason, the fascination with violence, the more extreme it seems, is a human trait.  Go figure.

Very true, Dan.  I believe it involves the illusion of being able to control something and have power over something, over which we will never have control or power--death.  In my case though, while that may be true to a degree, since I've been the victim of violent crime and I've witnessed a murder, the more I watch and the more I learn, I'm trying in an off-handed way to try to understand it all.  I won't be able to, of course, since everyone's motivations and driving force are unique.  But the more knowledge I obtain, it seems easier for me to obtain a kind of acceptance or closure (even though there's no such thing really).  I know that doesn't make much sense, but in a way, it helps me deal with my experiences. 
Good points.  As long as people watch, the networks will keep putting them out.  I just saw a little while ago, two new true crime shows that will be starting on I.D.  Even for a crime follower like me, it is beginning to seem like just a bit too much.  The rich who kill, the rich who are killed, those who've married killers, those who've dated killers...  Come on.  Now, there's a new one about people who've known killers.  Wow.  Just how many categories are there.  No limit, I'm sure.  Must be a tremendous core audience out there for all of these--not just me.  I can only wonder though, how they come up with all of these and what prompts the addition of new ones every other week.
It's puzzling––and disappointing––that television's fascination with crime shows and police procedurals hasn't translated into more Hollywood movies based on good crime novels. Instead, what we have is a never ending stream of computer generated cartoons with little plot, characterization or good dialogue, masquerading as drama––the kind of movies that excite the minds of the X-Box generation of teenagers, but leave thinking adults out in the cold.
Christopher, I'm so glad you brought this up.  There is so much material out there for true crime shows and for fictional crime shows, and all that's fine and dandy.  But what about movies?  There are so many incredible novels out there (fiction and non-fiction as well) that are mystery and/or crime based that would make positively amazing films, but they aren't getting any attention at all.  I don't know who writes the screenplays for most of the 'thrillers' that have come out lately, but I have to say, I most certainly am not thrilled in the least.  It is a sad state of affairs indeed.  Lots of special effects, blood and gore, etc., which is all well and good for a laugh or two, but nothing that makes you think and wonder and feel genuine fear of this or that character and what they represent.  I'm not talking about sci-fi creations either--real human beings, who can be the most terrifying of all.  Unfortunately, they don't make movies like that anymore and I can't remember the last one I saw that was worth my time.

J.F.

If you haven't seen Stanley Tucci's portrayal of a serial killer in the 2009 film adaptation of Alice Sebold's novel, "The Lovely Bones," I'd certainly recommend it. It was a terrific performance; one that was far more frightening than what passes for tension and suspense in most Hollywood films today.

I think the human fascination with death is a very basic part of our psyches. We're the only animal that sees death coming and has to deal with that knowledge throughout our lives, and one of the ways we do it in American culture is to fetishize it with crime dramas in which someone dies. I think the crime aspect of it has to do with wanting to feel as if we have some control over death -- when there is an identified killer, and somebody catches said killer and sees that s/he "pays" for having killed someone, it makes the death "rational," rather than this unpredictable thing out there that will get us when we least expect it.
That right, Dan.  'Someone else' dies.  We can go through it, experience it, go along for the ride, so to speak, and come to no harm.  Therein lies the benefit.

Well, now.  I'm not sure I feel altogether comfortable receiving a "benefit" from experiencing another person's suffering and death.

 

Tolstoy uses this view in "The Death of Ivan Ilych" where the superficial upper class colleagues     "experience" the news of Ivan's death with the complacent thought:  "It's he who's dead.  Not I."  The story then demonstrates what a man very much like them "experiences" when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer:  "Not I!  Not little Ivan.  This cannot happen to me."

Excellent post, Minerva.
Minerva, You've really hit the nail on the head with your comment.  Making death 'rational' seems to remove some of the terror about it.  Not really, but  we delude ourselves into believing that.  Somebody does something horrific, they get caught and removed from society, and we're all safe and sound again.  Not so, but it helps us sleep better at night.

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